Category Archives: Alternative Energy

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Energy expert advocates massive deployment of solar.

AN energy expert on solar power, Engr. Francis Oludemi, has advocated massive deployment of solar power across the country for rapid diversification of the economy. Solar power plant Oludemi who is the Chief Executive Officer of Solar Affairs Institute, made the call on the Federal Government while delivering a lecture titled, ‘Solar Energy, A Sure Bailout from Blackout in Africa,’ during the graduation ceremony of some students of the Institute. According to him, the Institute has trained over 7,000 Nigerian youths, including the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC members. He said while some of them have been employed, others have become employers of labour. According to him with the nation’s great solar power potential, the government should take advantage of this to reduce the protracted power problem in its economy. ‘‘Let’s all begin to focus on generating our own power as it is practiced in the advanced countries,” he stated. Meanwhile, the Institute also unveiled its 1,000 Watts ‘Solar Mobile Barbing’ kits designed to power barbers’ shops with four clippers, two fans, a TV set, and lighting points. Unveiling the solar barbing kits and the abridged version of the MTN yellow box, Mrs ChinyereAnuna, who represented the International Labour Organisation, ILO, urged the government to invest in training the youths in the solar energy development skills as part of its empowerment and employment programmes. Anuna also promised that her organisation will support the government to reduce the burden of unemployment. In his remarks the Director General, National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, who was represented by Mrs Afolayan Adeola, said the scheme has been leveraging on the capacity of Solar Affairs Institute to empower Corps members in solar energy development. “It will amaze you to know that this kit can be manoeuvred to power two to three bedroom apartments. “This is geared towards job creation should they be given the platform to run. A barber can now conveniently do his business in the day as he need not wait for power from the grid. He could also use the kits at home to serve him as power source in his apartment in case of grid failure.”

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How To Make Your Batteries Last as Long as Possible

Category : Alternative Energy


Your battery bank will likely be one if the most expensive components of your “off the grid” energy system. They are also the only piece of the system that will need replacing on a regular basis. Every extra day you can squeeze out of your battery bank will reduce the overall cost of your renewable energy system.

If you have already damaged your batteries, it is worth checking these guys out and using their advice….

Deep cycle solar batteries have lead plates (and other materials) immersed in electrolyte. The more surface area on the plates and the more electrolyte, the more capacity the battery will have. Larger deep cycle batteries will have more plates, thicker plates and more electrolyte to give the batteries more capacity.

Battery Plates and Why We Need to Protect Them

Our job as battery owners is to preserve the surface area on the plates. If we can keep the plates clean and in good shape, we can extend the capacity and longevity of the battery.


There are many tips below but some are a one-time deal such as setting the correct bulk voltage. Once it is done once, you will not need to think about it again.

Some are more complicated or require your attention on a regular basis. The more you work at it, the longer your batteries will last. However, if you work many hours per week for a few years to maintain your batteries, it might make more sense to buy new batteries as needed and spend the extra time with your family.

Your first battery bank will take the most abuse and last the least amount of time. As you get better at battery maintenance and monitoring your power system, you will be able to make your batteries last longer.

We always recommended an inexpensive battery bank if you are new to off grid living. Learn more about the best batteries for solar newbies here.

Here are many methods of making your batteries last longer than even the manufacturer’s specifications:

Do not have more than three parallel (or two with VRLA) strings.

When you are building a battery bank, you will often have to wire your batteries in parallel to get the required amp hours. Most experts agree that paralleling battery strings is not the best idea. Having two parallel strings will not cause any issue but three or more (especially with VRLA or sealed like gel cell or AGM batteries) will result in unbalanced batteries as some will take most of the charge and discharge, while others will sit almost dormant. If you must use three or more strings in parallel be sure to tie them together as shown in the diagram and equalize a little more frequently than usual. (Click on the picture to zoom in.)

How to parallel battery strings

Do not discharge your batteries any more than 50%.

In fact, the less you discharge your battery bank, the longer it will last.

Every time a battery is discharged and re-charged, it is referred to as a cycle. Every time a battery is cycled it wears. The deeper the cycle, the greater the wear. If your batteries were designed to cycle 500-800 at 80% depth 0f discharge (meaning 20% of the capacity left in the battery), they may last 2000 or more cycles at 20% discharge (80% still left in the battery). Cycling a battery actually removes a tiny amount of material from the plates as well as causes a buildup of sulfate on the remaining plate material. Both of these actions decrease battery capacity and longevity.

Always keep your FLOODED LEAD ACID batteries filled with distilled water.

If you are using flooded lead acid batteries in your power system it is very important to keep them topped off with distilled water. There are two reasons. First, the plates must always be covered with electrolyte. Second, if water is not added, the electrolyte will become too concentrated leading to premature battery failure. If the battery’s plates are exposed to the air for even a day or two, they will be damaged. If this happens, fill them asap and perform an equalization charge to mix the electrolyte.

PLEASE NOTE: Only use distilled water. Using tap water will add dirt, dissolved solids, elements and minerals to your electrolyte.

Make sure the bulk/absorption voltage is correct.

ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s instructions when setting up your solar charge controller, wind turbine controller, inverter charger or other charging equipment. The settings you need to be concerned with are the bulk/absorption voltage, float voltage and equalization voltage. The manufacturers test their batteries regularly as well as receive feedback from trusted solar installers to come up with the best voltages for your battery bank.

If you set the voltages too low, the batteries will have a build up of sulfate on their plates that will harden over time and become impossible to remove. If you set the voltages too high, the batteries can be overheated warping the plates or have more plate material removed than necessary.

Get a battery temperature sensor for your solar charge controller, wind turbine controller, and inverter battery charger.

Temperature has a huge impact on battery voltage readings. A cold battery will have unrealistically low voltage readings compared to a warm battery. As battery temperature increases, so does the at rest voltage. A high voltage reading from a hot battery does not mean it is full, it just means it is hot. A battery temperature sensor will make the necessary adjustments to charging voltages as the temperature changes.

Let’s imagine you have two Surrette S460s in series to form a 12 volt battery bank. Surrette tells us to bulk/absorption charge these batteries at 14.4 volts. However 14.4 volts is only correct at 25 degrees Celsius (C). As the battery temperature decreases, it takes more voltage to fill the S460s. At 0 (zero) degrees Celsius (C) it will take 15.0 volts for bulk/absorption. If your controller were to charge these cold batteries at 14.4 volts, they would always remain undercharged. You cannot make these voltage adjustments manually as the battery temperature can change many time throughout the day.

Another mistake is using a charge controller with a built in temperature sensor. Although it is better than nothing, the inside of your charge controller will not be the same temperature as your batteries. Make sure you have a temperature sensor that mounts to the batteries and install it directly against the case (below the level of the electrolyte) of one of the batteries in the middle of the battery bank.

DO NOT allow your batteries to get hot.

Although having a hot battery will increase its capacity it will destroy your batteries fast. The colder a battery is, the longer it will last. In fact a typical deep cycle battery at -30 degrees C will have a 60% longer lifespan than at 25 degrees C.

We have already mentioned that batteries are rated at 25 degrees C. Every 8 degree C rise (over 25 degrees C) will cut the battery lifespan in half. Just by having your battery bank at 33 degrees C you will only get half the rated cycles.

If you were thinking of installing your batteries in an insulated box please be cautious of overheating.

Never charge a battery that is over 35 degrees C.

As we have discussed, the colder a battery bank is, the better its lifespan will be. However the real damage is done when a battery is actually being charged when it is hot. If your batteries are over 35 degrees C do not allow them to be charged. Do whatever is necessary to cool them first.

Do not try to get away with the minimum amount of batteries.

Trying to save money in the beginning by installing the bare minimum battery bank will always end in disaster. Your system will never perform well. Your spouse will always wonder why your electricity is always turning off. Having an undersized battery bank will mean deep cycles and very limited battery life. In the short term, you will save some money but in the long term it will cost you when you have to buy a second battery bank. Almost everyone makes this mistake. You will not!

Cold batteries are fine.

You do not have to worry about your batteries getting cold. They do not mind at all. It is true that capacity will be reduced but as we discussed above, the battery bank itself will have a lengthened lifetime. Even if your batteries are located in a cold environment, they are likely staying warm enough as batteries produce a lot of heat while being charged and discharged.

Make sure your absorption time is correct.

Bulk charging will bring the battery bank to a bout 80% state of charge (SOC). The absorption charge is the time spent charging once the voltage has reached the bulk voltage, All three stage chargers allow you to program how long you want your absorption charge to be. The time setting for absorption charging is critical to battery longevity. If this is not correct, your batteries will never reach 100% state of charge causing sulfation (if setting too low) or plate wear (if setting too high). What is bulk charging versus absorption charging?

Do not charge at more than 13% of your battery’s C20 AH rating.

Charging batteries at too high of a current will overheat them and caused damage by warping the plates and removing plate material. The best way to decide how much of a current your batteries can handle is to find the battery’s C20 amp hour rating (What is a C20 rating?) and multiply it .13 (13%).  This will be the maximum charge rate you should put in your batteries.

For example: You have 4 Trojan L16s in series to make a 370 AH 24 volt battery bank. You just bought a brand new shiny Magnum Energy MS4024-PAE inverter that includes a 105 amp battery charger. Using your 5000 watt cheapo gas generator, you could easily force the full 105 amps into the battery bank. But should you?

Using our new formula we calculate the following:

370 x .13 = 48.1 AMPS

Realistically you should never force more than 48 amps into this battery bank. This includes any wind power, solar power, water power and/or generator power. All charging sources totaled should not be more than 13% of the battery bank’s C20 rating. If it happens on occasion, it will not likely cause noticeable damage as the current will automatically limit itself as the bulk voltage is reached. But chronic over current into your battery bank will cause irreparable damage.

Please note: Some battery manufacturers only allow 10% of the C20 AH rate for the bulk current setting.

 Monitor specific gravity (S.G.) regularly


When purchasing your new bank of batteries you should also get a quality battery hydrometer that has built in temperature compensation. Knowing the specific gravity (S.G.) of the electrolyte in your batteries can tell you the health of your batteries and if your charging them properly. All battery manufacturer’s provide the recommended S.G. for your batteries. If your readings are high, the battery will have increased capacity but decreased lifespan. After equalizing your batteries, the S.G. readings of all of the batteries should be the same. If they are not, it could mean your equalization was not successful. It could also mean you have a bad connection or bad cell or cells in a battery.

When the batteries are full, the S.G. readings will be the highest. When they are discharged, they will be the lowest. After S.G. monitoring, you will get to know how your batteries perform compared to their specific gravity readings. Specific gravity readings that drop unusually fast (while being discharged), can be a sign your batteries are sulfated.

Do not allow corrosion on your posts, connections and cables

Just like your car battery, your solar batteries can have a buildup of corrosion on the terminals, cables and connections. Corrosion, being less conductive than copper, can make it harder for current to pass thru your battery cables and into your inverter, solar system or wind turbine etc… The other problem with corrosion is that it can build up from the positive to the negative post making a connection between the two posts.

Build up of corrosion on the top of the battery.

Although the corrosion is less conductive than lead or copper, it is still conductive allowing current to pass from one terminal to another. Enough corrosion can drain a battery within hours.

Always keep an eye on your battery bank.

Every so often take a look inside the battery box and see how things are going. Is there any leakage? Does anything look unusual? Does it smell unusual or burnt? Is there excess liquid on the tops of the batteries? Any corrosion?

Feel the tops and sides of your batteries. Are there any hot spots? Does one battery feel hotter than the others?

Look at and feel the battery cables and their crimped/soldered lugs. Are they hot? Do they look like they have been hot in the past? It is very common for the lugs crimped on the end of a cable to begin to fail and get very hot. They can get so hot they melt the battery terminals off.

The last check is to remove all the battery caps and check the water levels (if you have flooded lead acid batteries). While you are in the battery, look at the plates and the electrolyte. Does it look clean? Does it look the same as all the other batteries?

It may seem like a lot of work to take good care of your batteries but it can be worth it due to the extra money you will save by not needing to purchase a battery bank until you get every kWh out of it.

When you consider that most solar equipment will last 20 years or more, taking the extra time to care for your batteries is a good use of your resources and time. It will also be fun to brag to your friends about long you made your battery bank last.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2013

How To Make Your Batteries Last as Long as Possible

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Solar-Powered Bitcoin Mining operation

Solar Powered Bitcoin Mining Could Be a Very Profitable Business Model

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are now a major business, with the global market capitalization of these coins exceeding $170 billion at their recent peak, according to Coin Market Cap.

Bitcoin alone has reached over $70 billion in value, up from nothing when it was created just eight years ago.

A major issue with Bitcoin, which may eventually undermine success unless it is remedied, is the massive amount of power required for “mining” of the coins.

The mining metaphor is apt because bitcoins are created through specialized computers looking for the correct codes (hash keys), just like digging for gold. That electronic digging takes more and more power as more and more people dig for that virtual gold. Sebastian Deetman calculated in 2016 that mining would require as much electricity by 2020 as the entire nation of Denmark currently consumes.

That’s just the beginning. Bitcoin’s algorithm requires that it get more and more difficult over time to mine, as long as mining itself becomes increasingly popular. With an approximately 132-year discovery cycle to mine all 21 million bitcoins, mining power demand will go up exponentially.

So what to do if we care about the power of blockchain and cryptocurrency as well as protecting our climate and our environment?

Well, one thing we can do is consider the potential for environmentally friendly power for mining.

I’ll look at solar power’s potential for Bitcoin mining in this piece. I conclude that it can be both very profitable and far better for the environment than some other options.

I first considered combining solar power with Bitcoin mining due to my work in solar power development and my recognition of how difficult it can be to obtain a power sales contract. There are many difficult aspects of solar power development, but obtaining the sales contract is now generally the most difficult part of the process, largely because there are so many market participants chasing too few contracts.

Mining Bitcoin is one way to obtain significant revenue — potentially far greater revenue than under normal power sales contracts to the grid — without needing any sales contract at all.

Bitcoin mining profitability is determined by the cost of electricity more than any other factor. So if solar power is cheaper than buying grid power, it can make sense to combine on-site solar power with mining operations.

Solar Powered Bitcoin Mining

To date, I am not aware of any significant mining operations using low-cost solar power at scale. Genesis Mining, a “cloud mining” operation, and some other mining operators use geothermal power in Iceland, which is cheap and sustainable. But this resource is far more geographically limited than solar power, which can be and is being developed all around the world.

The bottom line is that solar-powered Bitcoin mining operations can be highly profitable and enjoy payback times as short as a year or two. After that, Bitcoin revenue comes with almost zero ongoing costs for another 25 years or more for solar farms — though the mining machines will need to be upgraded periodically.

There are also opportunities for obtaining very low-cost grid power, or even negatively-priced power, to increase the profitability of solar mining operations.

If a large share of future mining operations use solar power, geothermal power, hydro power, biomass or wind power, the massive power demands of mining and their consequent environmental impacts could be largely mitigated.

Low-cost and negative-priced grid power

Some markets in the U.S. are increasingly paying businesses to take excess grid power. Under a negative-pricing scenario, the grid is receiving too much power and the grid operator must either temporarily shut down (curtail) some power plants or pay electric customers to take the excess power and avoid curtailment.

Negative pricing can be caused by various factors, but it is increasingly due to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. California, for example, is seeing increasing durations of negative pricing during the day when solar production occurs. The figure below shows the daily grid electricity demand curve, with demand plummeting during the day when a large amount of solar power is produced from existing solar plants around the state.

Negative pricing happens because California’s grid generation assets can’t all be turned down or off as solar production ramps up. Some baseload must run all the time. And as solar plants come on-line in amounts that exceed the baseload generation plus the solar power, some power must be curtailed or sold at negative prices. As the duck’s “belly” gets fatter (lower in the chart) there will be more and more negative-priced power.

Texas has also seen negative pricing periods for a number of years, prompted by excess wind power on the grid.

Given the strong focus on renewable energy in a number of states, it is all but certain that times of negative pricing are going to increase in the coming years.

Bitcoin mining

Bitcoin mining began as an activity that could be done on personal computers, but quickly morphed into a high-powered affair requiring specialized chips and large amounts of electricity. This trend is continuing and, as mentioned above, the cost of electricity is now easily the largest factor in determining mining profitability.

By forecasting where we can expect substantial negative pricing of power in various markets around the country, smart investors can set up large-scale mining operations in those jurisdictions — getting paid to take negatively priced power while mining a financial resource that is very likely to appreciate significantly in value over time. The price of Bitcoin recently hit $5,000. It is currently at about $4,100, up from under $1,000 at the start of the year.

In sum, by taking advantage of negative pricing in markets that are implementing high amounts of excess renewable energy, Bitcoin mining operators can earn additional revenue from the grid operator by taking that power, which is revenue over and above the revenue from selling mined bitcoins. (For the uninitiated: “Bitcoin” with an uppercase B is the technology and platform, whereas “bitcoin” with a lowercase b refers to actual bitcoins.)

There are, accordingly, two significant revenue streams available in this model: 1) taking negative-priced power, which earns up to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour currently, but may become even more valuable in the coming years; 2) using that power to mine bitcoins, which can return 25-50 cents per kilowatt-hour — or even more if the price of Bitcoin continues to rise.

Solar power for Bitcoin mining

It can make good financial sense to use solar power to mine Bitcoin. Solar plants can provide power that is cheaper than grid power in areas with good insolation and low construction costs. The price of power is also known with some certainty over time because there are no fuel costs and thus no volatility.

A 1-megawatt solar project could provide power over the 25-year life of the project at about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour or less (substantially less than the approximate 10 cents per kilowatt-hour of industrial grid power in California). Power-purchase contracts may also be available for solar power of this size in California as a backup source of revenue generation. A contract must be obtained that allows power to be used onsite first and any excess remaining to be sold to the grid. I discuss this further below.

In the chart below, I look at the numbers behind a solar Bitcoin mine powered by a 1-megawatt PV system. The mine uses grid power when solar power is not available. It also assumes a constant $2,500/Bitcoin value. (This is about half the current price; I’ve also assumed that the price adjusts higher to maintain a constant reward as the blocks halve every four years, which has been the case so far; I also assume amortization of the full cost of new mining machines over each four-year period as machines get more efficient and need to be replaced.)

The right column contains all year-one costs and revenue, except for the last two cells that contain the 20-year net revenue and net present value.

Source: Tam Hunt 

This financial model does not rely on any negatively priced power, because the above results are already highly favorable. It’s an added bonus if the grid power costs are lower due to periods of negatively priced power.

This is a conservative model in another key way: I’ve assumed a $2,500 Bitcoin price, but used the current mining difficulty level. (I used the CoinWarz Bitcoin profitability calculator, which is not entirely realistic. This is because there has been a 95 percent correlation between Bitcoin price and mining difficulty over the last two years. This means that if the current price were to drop to $2,500, the mining difficulty would also drop, and our 1-megawatt mining farm would produce significantly more than the 789 bitcoin per year included in the chart above.)

What does this mean? This 1-megawatt solar mining farm will probably be more profitable than what I’ve calculated here.

How does this compare to a solar-only model? The net present value for a 1-megawatt solar project would be about $200,000 to $400,000 for a project with a good power sales contract and low costs of development. A net present value of $9.3 million for the solar-plus-Bitcoin alternative is a good improvement.

If the mined Bitcoin are held long-term rather than being converted to dollars or other currency, there’s a good chance this revenue will increase even further (by additional multiples) as the price of Bitcoin continues to increase in the coming decades.

Another benefit of the renewable energy mining model is that the renewable energy tax benefits can be absorbed with tax liability from the sale of Bitcoin (all or partial sales as they’re mined), eliminating the need for outside equity investors to absorb the tax benefits, as is often the case with standalone solar or wind power operations.

Off-grid mining operations?

This development model can also be pursued in areas that have no power lines and very cheap land. No grid connection is required to do the mining. Under this scenario, the miners are connected to the internet via a satellite connection, but otherwise the entire project is off-grid. All solar power is used for mining. This kind of facility could also include onsite storage to both smooth production and to extend mining operations beyond daylight hours.

Being off-grid prevents using grid power to supplement the solar mining, but such a project could be built very easily and quickly. For example, Texas counties have no permit requirements for this kind of project, so it would be as easy as buying land, contracting to build the solar and mining facilities, and then commencing operation. Revenue is lower for the off-grid option, but still very profitable.

The backup plan: Selling power to the grid

What happens if the price of Bitcoin collapses entirely, leaving minimal or no profit from Bitcoin mining? This is an unlikely event given the growth of Bitcoin over the last eight years (Bitcoin’s market cap is about $68 billion as of this writing, up from zero in 2009), but it is nevertheless prudent to consider an alternative revenue stream to Bitcoin mining.

A less risky (but more complex) scenario is to construct a solar farm with the local utility as the backup power offtaker, but preserving the ability to use power onsite to mine Bitcoin. This is the excess sales arrangement mentioned above.

A 1-megawatt solar farm can obtain a power sales contract in California and other states. But the project must, of course, first be connected to the grid and go through the application or bidding process to obtain a power sales contract. This adds cost, time and complexity. And there’s no guarantee of winning a contract. However, obtaining a backup grid sales contract substantially reduces the risk of the pure Bitcoin mining approach.

This approach allows the farm owner to use as much power as they like to mine Bitcoin instead of sending it to the grid. So if the profit is higher in mining, they’d engage in mining, and if selling the power to the grid is more profitable, they’d do that instead.

The solar-plus-Bitcoin operation pays for itself in about two years, adding another level of insurance. Accordingly, the risk of losing the investment is mitigated and completely eliminated relatively quickly. Once the project costs are paid back, there is minimal risk remaining.

SourceGreentech media

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african solar powered airport

First African Solar Powered Airports Launched in South Africa

african solar powered airport
A solar-powered airport in South Africa. Photo credit: Northeastern University

With more than 2,500 hours of sunlight every year, South Africa has embarked on a mission to tap into this unused local resource by creating solar-powered airports across the country.

So far, there are six “green” airports across the country and plans to build more in the region are already underway.

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Australian Businesses rush to install solar systems to combat high power prices

Large available roof areas and improvements in solar PV technology are making l solar arrays more viable for companies looking to reduce overheads and take control of their energy future.

Australian National University’s Centre for Climate Economy and Policy Honorary Associate Professor Hugh Saddler said the number of solar-powered businesses was on the rise, particularly in South Australia, which has a long renewable energy history.

“The rooftop solar market has shifted away from almost exclusively on households to more and more on commercial businesses,” he said.

“If you’ve got a big factory or store you’ve got a lot of roof area, so it makes sense to install rooftop solar panels.

“The cost of the electricity is likely to come out at less than 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, and you’d likely be paying a lot more than that otherwise. ”

South Australian solar energy provider ZEN Energy was recently awarded several large-scale commercial contracts across education, manufacturing and construction industries.

More than 10,000 solar panels were installed at businesses including beverage manufacturer Bickfords Australia, Taplin Real Estate, and construction company Ahrens over the past few months.

ZEN Energy Founder and Director of Innovation Richard Turner said the number of commercial contracts had increased by 50 per cent in the past year.

“It’s all happening very quick, in line with the media announcements and news stories about the price of power going up,” he said.

“What used to be a large system at 100 kilowatts, we’re now seeing systems being installed in the megawatts, and we’ve just installed three of them.”

Turner said rising electricity costs, alongside improvements to solar technology were driving the commercial sector’s shift to renewable energy.

“It’s the bigger industries which used to have the luxury of getting cheap power that are now coming to us for massive systems,” he said.

“As these companies are resigning their contracts, their costs of power are skyrocketing and they’re now realising that solar energy prices are coming down about 50 per cent in the last two years.”

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and roof-top solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 40 per cent of the electricity generated in the state. However, last month it was reported that South Australia had overtaken Denmark as home to the world’s most expensive electricity prices.

Ahrens Managing Director Stefan Ahrens, who recently installed a 830 kilowatt system across seven of the company’s sites, said solar was an attractive option from an environmental and economical perspective.

“We believe there will be a three to four year return on investment, saving around 45 per cent in our energy costs,” he said.

Solar energy technology company Fluid Solar this week unveiled its new head office in South Australia’s capital Adelaide, which will run completely on renewable energy, independent of the state’s power grid.

Dozens of South Australian wineries have also installed solar panels to reduce costs. Yalumba Wine Company in the Barossa Valley installed one of the largest solar system installations in the state last year. Its 1.4 MW PV system reduced Yalumba’s energy costs by about 20 per cent and cut its annual CO2 emissions by more than 1200 tonnes.


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World largest solar plant

Tunisia building ‘world’s largest solar power plant’ to Power EU

Tunisian sunshine could soon be powering homes in the UK if an ambitious North African project gets the green light.

The TuNur project aims to power up to 2.5 million UK homes by 2018 using solar energy captured in the vast Tunisian plains.

Its investors have already spent £8 million ($12.9 million) on their project, which they claim will provide energy that is 20 per cent cheaper than other sources.

Tunisian sunshine could soon be powering homes in the UK if an ambitious North African project gets the green light. The TuNur project (pictured) aims to power up to 2.5 million UK homes by 2018 using solar energy captured in the vast Tunisian plains

Tunisian sunshine could soon be powering homes in the UK if an ambitious North African project gets the green light. The TuNur project (pictured) aims to power up to 2.5 million UK homes by 2018 using solar energy captured in the vast Tunisian plains

TuNur, a partnership between British renewables investor Low Carbon, developer Nur Energie, and Tunisian investors, has gathered three years of solar data from their site in Kebili Governorate.

They are now seeking approval from the UK government, who has recently allowed non-UK developers of renewable energy projects to bid for contracts that guarantee subsidies.

‘This is not a back-of-the-envelope fantasy,’ Kevin Sara, chief executive of TuNur told Matt McGrath at BBC News.

‘We are working with some of the largest engineering firms in the world. This is a serious project. Yes, it is risky like any big energy project is risky.’

The TuNur project will work with concentrated solar power (CSP) technology which uses thousands of mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central point. Electricity is generated when the concentrated light is converted to heat, which drives a heat engine connected to an electrical power generator

The TuNur project will work with concentrated solar power (CSP) technology which uses thousands of mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central point. Electricity is generated when the concentrated light is converted to heat, which drives a heat engine connected to an electrical power generator

The TuNur project will work with concentrated solar power (CSP) technology which uses thousands of mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central point.

Electricity is generated when the concentrated light is converted to heat, which drives a heat engine connected to an electrical power generator.

The plan involves building an undersea cable to Italy to connect to the European grid. 

But earlier this year, industry analysts warned that northern African states carried significant political risks.


Vast solar farms are a blight on the countryside and will no longer be eligible for European subsidies, the Environment Secretary has declared.

Liz Truss said carpeting acres of agricultural land with ‘ugly’ panels was preventing Britain leading the world in growing crops and raising livestock.

Two years ago there were just 46 solar farms. There are now 250, with another 200 awaiting planning permission.

Miss Truss has announced that from January subsidies worth £2 million ($3.23 million) a year from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy will be axed.

‘English farmland is some of the best in the world and I want to see it dedicated to growing quality food and crops’, she said.

‘I do not want to see its potential wasted and appearance blighted by solar farms.

‘They are ugly, a blight on the countryside and are pushing production of meat and other traditional British produce overseas.’

The policy does not affect subsidies for those who put solar panels on their roofs, or those built on the roofs of public buildings to generate their own energy.

Landowners can still claim British subsidies from the Department of Energy and Climate Change for solar farms, but these were slashed this year. 

TuNur was an associate member of a separate solar project, Desertec which last week announced that it had all but folded.

The project aimed to help to provide up to 15 per cent of Europe’s power from solar and wind parks in North Africa and the Middle East by 2050.

Desertec said that only three of its 19 existing shareholders had decided to stay on board: Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, Germany’s RWE and China’s State Grid.

They have decided to continue the project in an ‘adapted format’, Desertec said, adding that it would now function as a service company in the Middle East and North Africa.

TuNur, a partnership between British renewables investor Low Carbon, developer Nur Energy, and Tunisian investors, has gathered three years of solar data from their site in Kebili Governorate. The plan involves building an undersea cable to Italy to connect to the European grid

TuNur, a partnership between British renewables investor Low Carbon, developer Nur Energy, and Tunisian investors, has gathered three years of solar data from their site in Kebili Governorate. The plan involves building an undersea cable to Italy to connect to the European grid

‘Costs were very high and some companies said we’re not that interested in the Middle East and North Africa,’ Desertec Chief Executive Paul van Son told journalists, trying to explain why so many shareholders had left.

Desertec’s aim was to capitalise on the desert sun, which it estimated could provide more power in six hours than mankind could use in a year.

Spread over a 6,500 square mile area more than half the size of Belgium, Desertec’s projected delivery of more than 1 terawatt hours (TWh) would have been almost enough energy to power the whole of Germany for two years.

Also, Europe has had its own solar power boom, raising questions about the need for imports.

As a result, a number of major shareholders had already left the project in the past few years, including Siemens, Bosch, E.ON and Bilfinger.

Kevin Sara, chief executive officer at Nur Energie: ‘Recent news around Desertec (Dii) has raised some questions about the concept of North African solar. 

‘CSP is a proven technology and the Sahara is an area of optimum solar resource. Successful government programmes such as Masen in Morocco prove that developing solar in the Sahara is a cost effective source of renewable energy today.

‘This coupled with the growing energy demand and need for low carbon and non-intermittent power in Europe makes North Africa an optimum region for large scale solar development.’

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By 2050, 139 countries could be powered by Wind, Solar, Water

Stanford scientists outline the infrastructure changes needed to make 139 countries powered 100 percent by wind, water and solar energy by 2050.

A transition of this kind could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity — leading to a net increase of more than 24 million long-term jobs, an annual decrease in 4 to 7 million deaths related to air pollution, stabilization of energy prices and annual savings of more than $20 trillion in health and climate costs.

“Both individuals and governments can lead this change. Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program and co-founder of the Solutions Project, said in a news release.

“There are other scenarios. We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”

The research, published today in Joule, shows the raw renewable energy resources available to 139 nations and the number of wind, water and solar energy generators needed to make those countries’ power sources 80 percent renewable by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Researchers examined each country’s electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industrial and agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.

The study showed that countries with a greater share of land per population, such as the United States, China and the European Union, would have the easiest time making the transition to 100 percent wind, water and solar energy. Small countries or those surrounded by oceans and that are highly populated such as Singapore, would have a harder time meeting this goal.

“Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the Earth’s atmosphere, transitioning eliminates 4-7 million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term, full-time jobs by these plans,” Jacobson said.

“What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits, and cost benefits”

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solar farm

Japan turns abandoned golf courses into Solar Power Farms

Abandoned housing and abandoned factories might be rife across the world, but Japan has a problem with derelicts you might not have heard of before – abandoned golf courses.

They’re starting to pop up across the country, due to a huge number of them being built during a boom in the industry in the 80s which is now falling, with participation in the sport down 40%.

The courses could have been leveled for development, but instead, Kyocera is using their vast open spaces to install solar panels.

The renewable energy initiative is being welcomed in Japan, which has been looking for alternatives to nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster left a bad taste in the mouth.

The first 23-megawatt golf course project will launch in 2017 and produce enough power for around 8,000 homes.

Planning on an additional solar plant began in January 2014 and is now underway – it will cover approximately 2,000,000m2, accommodate 340,740 Kyocera solar modules, and is expected to generate roughly 99,230MWh annually – enough to power approximately 30,500 households.

There are several bold green initiatives in the works around the world right now, including one run by an ex-Nasa engineer who is hoping to plant one billion trees a year using drones.

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solar powered cars

Audi Cooperates with Alta Devices on Automobiles with Solar Roofs

Audi Cooperates with Alta Devices on Automobiles with Solar Roofs

“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Alta Devices and Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” stated Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement, Dr. Bernd Martens.

Audi and Alta Devices, a subsidiary of solar-cell specialist, Hanergy Thin Film Power, plan to work together to integrate solar cells into panoramic glass roofs of Audi models. With this cooperation, the partners aim to generate solar energy to increase the range of Audi electric vehicles. The first prototype will be developed by the end of 2017.


As the first step, Audi and Alta Devices will integrate solar cells into a panoramic glass roof. In the future, because Alta’s technology is uniquely flexible, thin, and efficient, almost the entire roof surface is to be covered with solar cells.

The electricity generated from the cells will flow into the car’s electric system and can supply, for example, the air-conditioning system and seat heaters – a gain in efficiency that has a direct positive impact on the range of an Audi electric vehicle.

“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Alta Devices and Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” stated Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement, Dr. Bernd Martens.

At a later stage, solar energy could directly charge the traction battery of Audi electric vehicles.

“That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” continued Martens. The green electricity will be generated by Alta Devices’ innovative solar cells. These solar cells are very thin and flexible, hold the world-record for efficiency, and perform extremely well in low light and high-temperature environments.

Dr. Jian Ding, SVP of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., CEO of Alta Devices, Inc. and co-leader of the Audi/Hanergy Thin Film Solar Cell Research and Development Project, said “This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices first cooperation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology with Audi’s drive toward the future of the auto industry, we will define the solar car of the future.”

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Floating solar power

Floating solar power: new frontier for green-leaning water utilities

Lakes and ponds used by water utilities have long been viewed with a single purpose: holding water. Now a handful of pioneering water utilities are looking at their aquatic real estate with a new purpose in mind: solar energy generation.

Large-scale floating solar projects have been installed in Japan and China, as well as on ponds at California wineries. But solar energy has remained primarily a terrestrial endeavor because, in most cases, it is simpler and cheaper to mount photovoltaic (solar) panels on land.

Floating solar power

That is beginning to change. The floats and other mounting components unique to water-based solar are slightly more expensive, but that difference will evaporate as more projects are built. And as solar has proliferated in some areas, it has become harder to find available land for new installations.

Now a few water agencies are embracing floating solar to maximize the utility of their storage ponds and reservoirs. Floating solar panels can provide energy that offsets operating costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And there are other benefits: Floating solar panels throw shade on the water surface, which can reduce evaporation and algae growth.

Sonoma County Water Agency will install floating solar panel arrays later this year. The panels will float on its Oceanview treated wastewater pond in Windsor, where shade from the panels will reduce the cost of algae control, and the electricity produced will help power the treatment process.

The agency had already built solar arrays on rooftops and parking lots, said general manager Grant Davis. The next choice was ranch land, but that posed a conflict with livestock grazing operations.

“We were looking then for disturbed acreage that was going to be out of sight, out of mind,” Davis said. “And what better place than a wastewater treatment pond?”

The agency was also motivated by a 2008 policy adopted by its board of directors to become “carbon free” by 2015 – meaning it aimed to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from its energy demand – a goal that it met.

So about three years ago the agency signed a contract with Pristine Sun, a San Francisco firm, to develop a floating solar panel system for several of its treatment ponds. Pristine had not built a floating solar system before. But after some research and testing, the first system was installed as a pilot project at the Oceanview treatment pond in summer 2016.

The trial was successful, and a permanent installation at the pond is expected to go live by the end of this year. It will produce 1 megawatt of electricity, enough to offset 4 percent of the agency’s electrical demand. The panels will be mounted on plastic floats borrowed from the dredge-mining industry.

The team plans five more floating solar projects on other treatment ponds. In total, they’ll produce enough electricity to power 3,500 homes.

“We’ll see about $33,000 in annual power savings at buildout,” Davis said.

The water agency pays nothing for these projects. Pristine Sun covers all costs for equipment, installation and permitting, and then makes its money selling the energy that’s generated.

Troy Helming, Pristine Sun’s founder and chief executive, said floating solar is still extremely rare in the U.S. But he said the potential is “enormous.”

In California alone, using a very conservative estimate of available inland water surface area, Helming estimates floating solar could produce 20 gigawatts of electricity. That’s more than 10 percent of the state’s total energy need.

“It seems like there is quite a bit of interest, which is exciting,” said Helming. “Now in California and Hawaii and Japan, and other parts of the world, there are challenges sometimes finding new locations where you do have fairly high concentrations of both rooftop and ground-mount solar. It makes a lot of sense to look at these underutilized assets owned by water agencies and municipalities for this potential application.”

One drawback to such installations is that the floating solar panels and their anchoring systems must not interfere with water system operations. That means preserving access to drains and other plumbing. In some cases, panels may need to be easily removable.

But these are simple “engineering challenges,” Helming said. In many cases, floating solar offers more advantages than drawbacks. One advantage is reducing algae that can rapidly clog filters, requiring more frequent cleaning or replacement. Depending on location and use of the water, algae may also pose a public health concern.


Floating solar power

Evaporation control is another potential benefit. For many utilities, water is essentially money. They spend millions of dollars pumping and treating water, which then becomes a commodity that is sold to customers. So any water lost to evaporation is essentially lost revenue.

Water can also enhance solar generation. Ironically, too much heat reduces a solar panel’s energy output. Every panel is rated for certain temperature limits, above which energy output plummets. But a watery surface will always be cooler than the bare ground on which most solar arrays are built.

Dirt is another enemy of solar panels. Wind-blown dust inevitably collects on panels, preventing some of the sun’s energy from reaching photovoltaic cells. This can reduce energy output by 20 percent or more. Most ground-mounted solar arrays get cleaned only two or three times a year.

Helming’s company has rigged its floating panels with a simple sprinkler system to clean the panels using water drawn from the reservoir underneath. It cleans the panels every day.

“We’re curious to look at the data ourselves and see if we actually reap those ancillary benefits,” said Kelly Rodgers, energy program manager at the San Diego County Water Authority.

The San Diego agency signed a contract with Pristine Sun to install a 6-megawatt solar array floating on its Olivenhain Reservoir that will cover about 10 percent of the water surface.

Rodgers’ agency first sought bids for a floating solar project five years ago and got no “viable results,” she said. It tried again about 18 months ago and received several proposals.

The 24,000 acre-feet Olivenhain Reservoir functions purely as an emergency supply for the San Diego region, so water levels don’t fluctuate much. Also, recreation is not allowed there. Both factors simplify the installation, Rodgers said, which they hope to complete by the end of 2018.

“Certainly we wouldn’t cover the entire reservoir,” Rodgers said. “But we may add additional panels if this turns out to be a really good thing for us. We’re always trying to reap revenue and recover costs to stabilize our water bills.”

The Olivenhain project may include battery storage, Rodgers said. This would allow the water authority to maximize revenue by selling electricity during evening and late-afternoon hours, when solar output drops off but energy demand is peaking.

There are some big fish to catch in the floating solar business. One of the biggest of all is the California Aqueduct, owned by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR), which exports vast amounts of water from north to south. The aqueduct offers more than 400 miles of canal surface area that could be covered with solar panels in a region of the state – the San Joaquin Valley – that is relentlessly sunny.

DWR – a huge energy consumer – also faces a state mandate to slash its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

As recently as 2015, DWR investigated covering portions of the canal with solar panels. It concluded this wasn’t feasible because of the need for frequent visual inspections of the canal and the water surface itself. It also cited challenges in attaching panels to the canal banks.

But it appears DWR’s analysis may not have considered the prospect of floating solar panels, which pose a much less intensive installation process. They could also be easier to move temporarily to allow inspections.

A University of California, Davis study in 2015 found that covering the aqueduct with solar panels would more than pay for itself. It could also prevent over 9,000 acre-feet of water evaporation per day. On an annual basis, that’s equal to the entire capacity of Lake Oroville, the state’s second-largest reservoir.

The study found that mounting solar panels on just a single 80-mile stretch of canal serving the Bay Area would avoid water losses worth $1 million annually.

Helming said transforming the aqueduct into a solar-energy producer is entirely feasible today.

“There would be a whole bunch of companies that would jump at the chance to cover the aqueduct with solar at no cost to the state,” he said.

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